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, was lauded for being audacious enough to have women speaking about their sex lives on screen.Whether that was to be her career pinnacle remains debatable, but her latest film unquestionably sees the filmmaker plummeting to despairing creative depths.Based on an official feted, allegedly incorruptible police chief in one of the fastest developing regions in China, is a piece of unflinching, visually banal hagiography which harks back to the oft-appearing state-backed films about nearly flawless men of iron who place their work before their families and their own well-beings.The film's original Chinese title was – which is the English title still appearing in the opening credits of the print shown at its world premiere at the Tokyo International Film Festival on Oct. With its backers including state and provincial-level propaganda departments, hardly shares anything with William Friedkin's Los Angeles-set namesake; while also focusing on a law enforcement officer obsessed with getting the job done, Ning never really takes her film to a new level by probing the circumstances in which toiling protagonist is forced to work in.Instead, the film's titular city – which has made headlines for the misguidedly lavish infrastructural projects built with the flush of its coal-fuelled wealth in the past decade – is basically spared from scrutiny, with even its sleazy businessmen shown as having recoiled from excess in awe of the just heroics of the leading character.
Hao Wanzhong (Wang Jingchun) is simple too devoid of nuance as a central character, with his transformation from middle-school chemistry teacher to ruthless cop never really properly addressed except from the wafer-thin testaments from his kin and associates.
Given the wish to shape him as a super-detective, the modus operandiwith which he solves his cases are laughable (this is someone who would drive overnight to a village to catch an important fugitive in an age of helicopters), and the depictions of crimes and crime scenes are unconvincing (a murdered girl was still clutching a sweet, despite having been beaten, hacked and then drowned to death in a bathtub).
is most grating with its over-the-top attempts to stir emotions: the candy-girl image was just one in a litany of scenes aimed to remind Hao (and the viewer) of the harrowing challenges he confronts in the land of psychotic felons – the smalltime robbers and killers, mind you, and not the corrupt corporate of course, who are seen simply as crude men easily guided to the light by Hao's intervention.
Mistaking bombast as the essential key to move audiences, the film actually begins with a straight-faced, pompous rendition of Hao's funeral during which his son delivers – in a dramatic tone belying his young age – a stirring eulogy.
Thus begins the reconstruction of the hero's life, shaped in the work of a cynical investigative journalist Hua Wei (Sun Liang) as he researches and interviews people for a feature article on Hao.